The Toronto Raptors are sick of being perceived as a team that NBA players don’t want to play for. Team president Masai Ujiri made that clear during Kawhi Leonard’s highly anticipated media availability Monday morning.
Following multiple questions about trying to sell Leonard on staying in the city beyond the one year remaining on his contracr, Ujiri decided to set the record straight.
“The narrative of not wanting to come to this city is gone,” he said. “We should move past that. Believe in this city. Believe in yourselves.”
Ujiri’s passionate words received applause and cheers from fans that decided to see Leonard and Danny Green in Raptors’ jerseys for the first time. That’s a reaction that’s well deserved.
Yes, it’s cold in Toronto during the winter. That isn’t just something that the Raptors are forced to deal with, though. Have you ever been to Boston or Chicago in the winter? People aren’t walking around in shorts and soaking up the sun.
Besides, it’s unfair to assume that all NBA players want to play in warm climates. I think it’s more fair to say that most NBA players want to suit up for organizations that promote and nurture success.
Toronto won the Eastern Conference last season with a record of 59-23. In fact, they’ve won at least 48 games in each of their last five seasons. The Raptors are a squad with a winning culture that is looking to take the next step. Leonard and Green may be what the team needs to find success beyond the regular season.
That’s an exciting opportunity.
Plus, if you come to Toronto, you’re automatically loved across the country. You become part of “Canada’s team.” You literally are “The North.” Obviously that comes with some additional pressure but, again, it should be seen as an opportunity.
Much like Canada shook the ‘polite, kind’ image during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Toronto needs to shake this idea that it’s not worthy of the league’s top talent.
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